Should We Take Our Cameras to a Funeral?

I admit, I would never have thought of  taking a camera to a funeral, hell I even refuse to take one to a wedding! But maybe we should record and celebrate passings just as we do all other monumental events in our lives. For more thoughts on whether funerals and cameras mix, I’ll direct you to a thoughtful essay in the Telegraph.co.uk by photographer Christian Payne.

8 Responses to “Should We Take Our Cameras to a Funeral?”

  1. Interesting question, why not take a camera. It is a defining moment in the person’s life. Not only the person with the camera but the person in the funeral. If you look back it was very common for photographers to take pictures of a body in a casket. I carry a camera just about every where but have never used one at a funeral. Carried it but did not capture anything with it. Now that you have posted this thought or question I think why not?

    I guess the question is after the picture is taken what is the most respectful way to use the picture. Should family be consulted first before you show it? Unlike many years ago when it seemed a more common practice and people were more open to a photographer in this type of situation. I am not sure how modern western people will precieve

  2. preconceive the notion of a photographer at the funeral. You have brought forth a interesting conundrum, I hit enter earlier while spell checking, thus the two posts to finish my thoughts.

    Your photography is nothing less than inspirational.

  3. People are used to me having a camera in my face, so I don’t think I seem out of the ordinary. I just take “snapshots” and try to be discreet. Probably it’s part of how *I* deal with the death.

    I don’t “publish” the pictures… but I definitely give a bunch to the family. I have even been thanked by a mother afterward, she felt so much better see just how many people had showed up, she hadn’t really paid attention the day of.

  4. To me, a funeral is one of the saddest times in a person’s life. It’s a time we reflect back upon, but it’s really not something to be remembered. I guess cameras are not looked on as being appropriate at funerals because it may be disrespectful to the family of the deceased. As photographers, we may think it’s an opportunity to capture emotional moments, but others may look upon the camera for capturing happy moments and they may get the wrong idea. My father died in 1996. I would have thought it to be quite odd for a person to take a picture of him in his casket. It would have been odd for a person to want to capture images of the crowd at such a sad time. My mother could not stand to even look at the casket. I know she would not want to look at pictures even today, 13 year later. The passing of a loved one, in my culture, is a very, very sad thing. The person is out of your life. You will never talk with them or do things with them anymore in your life. They are gone. Sure, photos of the person when they were alive are used to remember them, but the death is something that brings such sorrow.

  5. I have always thought it was a little strange that it is not ethical to photograph a funeral. We take photos throughout our entire lives gradually telling a visual story of the people around us… and then we just skip the ending? Seems wrong to me. Whenever I kick the bucket, I want my personal story to be complete.

    Wayne

  6. Just read the post above mine by Dennis C. and can’t help but feel a little cold after writing mine in such a light hearted manner–this is a serious topic. If you read this Dennis, I am very sorry for your loss and was only giving my personal opinion. I should elaborate a little on my opinion though–I don’t believe that it is appropriate to take photos of the deceased, but rather the ceremony celebrating their life.

    Wayne

  7. Hi Wayne,

    It’s nothing to feel cold about. Everyone has their own feelings about funerals. For those who regard funerals as a celebration of life, then it would be important to have a way to look back at it. I guess I would be mostly concerned of the perception of others if seen with a camera at a funeral.

    Dennis

  8. Wow what an interesting form. I totally agree that photographs are usually taken to capture happy moments, not sad ones. I have never heard of people taking pictures of the body in the casket and just the thought of that, is kinda of bothersome to me. I am a person who likes to take their camera everywhere and capture photos of my family. That is the only reason I questioned if it’s okay to take pics at a funeral. Because at a funeral is often the time when you see almost all of your relatives travel from out of town and crowded in one location. People put more importance on attending a funeral then they do on any other occasion.

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